Friday, February 28, 2014

Culture Shock Wave Model

It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are going, or the length of stay, but when you travel abroad for more than a month, you are told that life will follow a culture shock wave model. First will be the honeymoon stage: everything will be exciting and new, and it will seem like you are on top of the world. Then, at some point, you will reach a low. Life will seem difficult, for whatever reason(s). Lastly, life will even out. You will accept where you are and know what life really holds. However, this isn’t true.

According to Catherine, culture shock comes in waves daily. You might wake up happy, something might happen that brings you down and then something else brings you back up. I haven’t experienced culture shock in either of these ways, though. Instead, as I was exhausted yesterday, I began to feel down. For those of you that know me, you understand that not speaking is impossible for me. So, speaking minimally for several hours meant something was off, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.

As I sat on a bus toward downtown to buy bus tickets for tomorrow’s trip to Porto Alegre, I realized that more than anything I missed Antigua, Guatemala. I missed walking down the street and having a panadería and café on every block. I missed the food found in Guatemala. And more than anything else, I missed being able to communicate competently with others. So, my first culture shock wave came not because I missed the U.S., but because I missed Guatemala. Although I know my battle with this culture shock wave isn´t over yet, I know my Portuguese is improving from nothing to something, and that I have great friends to help me work through the tough times!

Luan helping me work through tough times!

No Sleep for You

I have realized that going to bed early is a foreign concept now. Catherine and I have gotten no more than 6 hours of sleep each night for the past week. We aren’t sure how this happens, but it does. Last night, Catherine and I made a deal to go to bed by midnight. Instead, we went to Cassino for a pre-Carnaval celebration and were out past 2am. We might have looked a little like tourists taking pictures of the town, but the lights and decorations were quite unique.

Decorations for Carnaval!

The King Chicken!!

I also saw my first penguin!!!!
See? There are penguins near the beach in Brazil!

Since it was the first time we had been to Cassino, we made our way to the beach (even though it was already dark out). The beach in Cassino is the longest beach in Brazil. And at night, you can see the star shining brightly and just enjoy the sound of the ocean hitting the shore. I could have stayed there all night. (But a bonfire would have been nice.) However, the time at the beach was cut short by a phone call to meet another friend downtown: the Carnaval festivities had begun.

We also found out it is legal to walk down the street with open alcohol containers. There was even a store selling beers through a metal gate.

Once we got home, Catherine reminded me of the deal me made. Once again we failed!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cell Phones!

Today, Luan randomly showed up at 11am and asked if we wanted to go to the University Restaurant. Catherine and I had just finished doing our laundry, and weren’t exactly ready to go out in public, but we ended up having a great time. (See a picture of our laundry facilities on Catherine’s blog, here.) On our way out we ran into a handful of the guys we met at the barbeque. It made us feel like we were finally making friends.

After Catherine was finally ready to go out into the world, we headed over to our office to spend time on the internet. The only issue we had was that precious Facebook was blocked. We looked into what we wanted to do for Carnaval next week and we didn’t actually figure anything out. So much for being productive on the internet.

Rossana ended up finishing work early today, so she took us into town to finally get cell phones. It was like Christmas as a child. We were so excited that we didn’t put them down for some time. We divvied up the list of numbers we had to let them know we had phones. These are our new phones. At least we know they won’t be stolen!  

The phones are only identifiable by the theme of the phone and the background picture.
 On our way back to campus, Rossana stopped to get us food. (She is way too kind!) We stayed in the car as she ordered us food. When we were getting out of the car to go into the hostel, she noticed there was a note for us:
Bauru Box Reads: “We hope you Catherine Rylee! This Rosannas Friend”

It is considered a traditional food from Rio Grande do Sul, but is similar to a hamburger with an over hard egg. We didn't know what to expect. But once again, the food was amazing!

A burnt Catherine eating the bauru.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Food! Lots of Food!

I GOT INTO GRAD SCHOOL! My lovely husband decided the best way to tell me was to post a picture of the school mascot on my Facebook wall; nothing else.

Saturday night Catherine and I decided to venture downtown. It was just starting to get dark, but we thought maybe we could find a modem. Although almost everything was closed, we were able to find an internet café. This was the first time we had been on Facebook since arriving in Rio Grande Thursday night. Of course the first thing my husband sends me on Facebook is, “Have you seen your wall?” As I was about to scream, the lovely Ms. Catherine gave me that “don’t you dare” look. I stifled the urge and carried on.

In addition to the excitement of getting into grad school, I had a handful of friend requests. Earlier in the day, Catherine and I went to a churrasco (the Brazilian barbeque graduation party). It was a group of mechanical engineering students, so Catherine and I were 2 of the 5 girls in a group of 20ish people. When our friend arrived to take us to the party, he was 30 minutes late. As we got into the car, he asked, “Have you gotten used to the Brazilian way of telling time yet?” Which means, if someone says 11, the person will show up around 11:30. Then, when we arrived, we said hi to everyone. This consisted of starting at one side of the room (since the 15+ guys and 1 girl were sitting in a circle), and kissing each person on the cheek with a greeting of “tudo bem?” until we had greeted each person. It was a very long, but personal process. However, we weren’t introduced to everybody. Instead, we gradually met them as the day went on. Similar to making our way around while greeting everyone, every time one type of meat was done cooking and cut into small pieces, someone walked around in front of each person offering food. There must have been at least 4 different kinds of meat, all of which were amazing. (Kudos to the cook!) I was surprised how many people at the churrasco spoke at least rudimentary English. I felt so bad that I couldn’t speak Portuguese with them. But, everyone was so nice about it!

By the end of the day, we had made a handful of new friends! One of the friends, Luan, came by Sunday to hang out with us. Due to the weather, we didn’t make it to the beachs of Cassino. Instead, we walked to the nearnest supermarket to buy food for lunch. Catherine and I watched as four guys worked together to make lunch. It was quite an expereince! They made panquecas, which consisted of ground chicken rolled in a crepe-like thing, topped with a tomato sauce. Here is a picture!

as panquecas

See the part without cheese? Since I am allergic to dairy, one of the guys made a special batter without milk just for me. I felt so bad about my dietary restriction, but he was so nice about making a section specifically for me.

I think Catherine and I have started to see the humor of many of the people here. One of the cooks told us, if it tasted good, he made it. And, if it tasted bad, the other guy made it. Then we were asked which one made it. Catherine ended up serving the food and she kept giving me more! I guess the first guy made it because it tasted amazing!

Friday, February 21, 2014

First Day, No Internet

We are still having issues connecting to the internet. I have been able to get notifications from Facebook and email on my phone, but I can’t respond to anything. These issues ended with the Dean giving Catherine and me university computers that would connect to the internet. However, Facebook seems to be blocked in ILA (the language department in which we are working). This might seem trivial, but when the only way to communicate with other ETAs and students with whom we are supposed to be meeting, not having Facebook is a big deal. In addition, we don’t have access to internet in our hostel. So, Catherine and I found a way to entertain ourselves tonight: take words/objects around the kitchen and look them up in the Portuguese-English dictionary.

As for the rest of the day, it was fairly eventful. We sat in on/helped proctor a TOEFL test at 8am. It was interesting to see a standardized test taken in another country. We also met two of the four other faculty members in the department. I have noticed that my Portuguese has gotten better. This means that I can understand a lot more than I did a week ago, but my speaking abilities are still fairly low. However, we talked to a handful of new people today. Three guys were biochemical engineering students. Two of whom spoke English fairly well. Catherine did a great job of promoting the NucLi classes, though.

We also met a student who is studying to become a teacher. She helped us with questions we had about nearby areas, phones, laundry, etc. She also explained why so many people we saw were wearing rings. If there is a silver band on the ring finger of the right hand, the person is in a serious relationship. If there is a gold band on the same finger, the person is engaged. Lastly, if there is a gold band on the ring finger of the left hand, the person is married.

Rossana, Catherine, another professor and I then had lunch at a restaurant called Bamboo. This was Catherine and my first trip off of campus. The other professor then drove us around the downtown area and dropped us off near the shopping street. (This street is full of stores and cars are not allowed to drive on it. It is also several blocks long.) During this trip, we tried to buy phones and a USB modem to get internet for our computers. However, without a CPF, we were unable to do so. We think a passport will work, so hopefully tomorrow we will have unlimited access to internet.

The last piece of business today involved Catherine, Rossana and I meeting to discuss the game plan moving forward. We met in the office the university provided for Ingles sem Fronteras, which will be Catherine and my office. The meeting lasted two hours and we were rapidly going through all of the points we needed to discuss. After being told normally meetings aren’t very productive by American standards, we were very surprised how much we talked about/accomplished. We have the next month to plan classes, projects, workshops, etc. I also may be helping with a phonetics class and an applied linguistics class; both of which I am very excited to see.

As the day comes to an end, it is important to describe one of the hardest parts to which to adapt: the showers. This morning I took a shower in Catherine’s room because I needed to borrow body wash. So, tonight I decided I would take a shower in my own bathroom. BIG MISTAKE! Firstly, the long plastic tube hanging down from the shower head shoots out water (see accompanying pictures of the room). I figured that out after I put it over the side of the shower and it went all over the bathroom floor. Secondly, the shower door is not on the track and fell on me. Lastly, the water was fairly cold. I have decided from now on to take a shower in Catherine’s room. We have also decided that it is about time to look for a new place to live. We found out that Cassino is a beach town that people leave in the winter. Therefore, we are hopeful that we can find a furnished place to live that would work perfectly with our time frame. We shall see…

My Room

The bathroom: (See the water hose thing?)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

We Made it to Rio Grande

Last night, I made it safely to the hostel in Porto Alegre. It was an interesting process. After talking with the person next to me on the plane, we shared a taxi to my hostel. The guy was very nice and helped me get my bags inside.

The hostel itself was nothing like past experiences. We shared a room with two other girls in a room with three sets of bunk beds, two of which were three beds tall. There was a guy across the hall that asked me about a dishtowel coin under the wireless router. I still have no idea what he was talking about, but apparently he asks all Americans about it…? I am not sure if the strangest part of the stay was the meat patê that you squeezed out of a tube for breakfast this morning, or the fact Catherine and I didn’t have towels, so we had to dry off with the clothes we wore to bed last night. Also, my luggage handle broke off of my brand new suitcase, making picking up the suitcase very difficult. Lastly, the humidity was an unexpected surprise.

Catherine and I agree that from what we have heard, we have the best host professor and university. As we were packing up our things, our host professor, Rossana, came to pick us up at our hostel to take us to lunch. For R$18 we ate at a great all you can eat vegetarian type buffet. Additionally, unlike many other ETA placements, Rossana pushed the university to allow a university car to pick us up. It took over five hours to drive to Rio Grande (which we were told would take 3-4 hours). Since driving here is very different from the states, Catherine and I quickly learned ai ai ai is somewhat similar to oh my God! She also arranged for us to stay at the university hostel rent free. We have our own rooms and bathrooms with a shared kitchen for the entire place. We are allowed to stay here the entire length of the grant, if we want. However, we were told there isn’t any internet. So, we aren’t sure about staying here. Plus, the university is about to close for summer break; just in time for Carnaval. But this might mean no access to anything for at least a week after.

Rossana also bought us towels and took us preliminary grocery shopping. In the process, I found a Brazilian Portuguese-English dictionary. We also learned that the Portuguese in the state of Rio Grande do Sul has a Spanish influence. Therefore, there are a lot of differences between here and the north, making communication between the two regions more difficult. We were also informed that we will be getting offices and will have the opportunity to enroll in a Portuguese class and assist the Spanish/French linguistic classes. (Catherine speaks French and I speak Spanish.) Starting at 8am tomorrow, we are assisting proctors for a TOEFL test.

Rossana took the time to reach out to the Dean of the school to find the student that most recently studied abroad. He met us at the campus when we arrived and showed us around. He explained that we needed login information for the internet, and was kind enough to let us use his. He also is picking us up Saturday morning for a graduation type party for a fellow engineer. 

In addition, I am glad I learned the word for dog today: cachorro. Because, our campus is FULL of them. We were told it is normal to see dogs everywhere, and “they are not wild, but they don’t belong to anyone”. I also found out that the couple we saw around campus while touring it at 9pm became a pack of dogs at 10:30pm that followed Catherine and myself across campus. Those cachorros can be very intimidating late at night.

With everything Rosanna has done for us, we feel almost guilty that we are being treated so well. Yet, we are extremely grateful! No wonder the Program Specialist of the Brazilian Commissioner’s office, and a U.S. Foreign Service agent spoke so highly of her.

~ ~ ~

As a side note: before leaving the U.S., a friend told me to wave to the penguins. She joked that since I was going so far south, I could see Antarctica. Ironically, we were told today that sometimes the penguins lose their way and end up on the beach in Rio Grande. They are sent to a nearby reserve to be cared for.  I might actually see penguins…on the beach (which is the longest beach in Brazil)!